Mamaroneck Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried and his three assistant superintendents are taking pay freezes for next year, and some New York State school aid will likely be restored once the budget dust settles in Albany. Nevertheless, teams at the Hommocks Middle School must still be reconfigured, in accordance with budget-trimming plans that are beginning to gel.
At its study session on April 1, the Mamaroneck School Board absorbed these and other developments as it continued its line-by-line review of the superintendent’s $120.4 million budget. Dr. Fried will present a revised recommended budget at the next board meeting on April 14.
Superintendents Agree to Salary Freeze
April 14 Board Meeting, 7:30 p.m. – Presentation of revised Superintendent’s Recommended Budget, Additional Board Feedback, and Community Input
April 21 Board Meeting, 7:30 p.m. – Presentation of final Superintendent’s Recommended Budget. Community input if needed
April 23 Board Meeting, 7:30 p.m. – School Board Adopts the Budget; no further community input/discussion.
April 27th Murray PTA Budget Discussion & Vote, Murray library, 7:30 p.m.
April 28th Chatsworth PTA Budget Discussion & Vote, Winnie the Pooh cafeteria, 7:30 p.m.
April 29th Mamaroneck Ave. School PTA Budget Discussion & Vote, MAS All-Purpose Room, 7 p.m.
May 6th Central, Hommocks, MHS and SEPTA PTA Budget Discussion & Vote, Hommocks library, 7:30 p.m.
May 11th Community Meeting/Budget Discussion at Starbucks, Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, 7:30 p.m.
May 19 BUDGET VOTE
LOCATION: All Board Meetings (April 1, 14, 21, and 23) will be held in the Tiered Classroom at Mamaroneck High School.
School Board President Linnet Tse began the budget session with the announcement that Dr. Fried and the three assistant superintendents will voluntarily forgo pay raises for the 2009-2010 school year because of the economic crisis.
“We’re sad that it’s come to this,” said Ms. Tse, “but we appreciate it and recognize the leadership.” She noted that central administrators will each be doing “bigger jobs” next year, following a decision not to replace the interim superintendent for personnel when he leaves in July.
“My hope remains that the Mamaroneck Teachers Association and the other bargaining units will continue to think seriously about making their own concessions to help restore positions and ease the financial burden of our district,” said Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried in a press release on his pay freeze.
MTA President Ann Borselino declined to comment.
New “Extended Team” for Hommocks
The second big piece of budget news was the reconfiguration of academic teams presented by Hommocks Principal Seth Weitzman, who has been working with his faculty and administrative team on best ways to cope with the budget-related loss of four regular teaching positions. There will continue to be four teams in sixth grade, which is a particularly large cohort. But the seventh and eighth grades will shift to three “extended” teams.
In the extended model, two academic teams at each grade level will function like they do now, with four teachers each. The number of students will rise slightly to 104 per team. The third team will have approximately 152 students and eight teachers. For each team, four teachers will teach a particular grade full-time, and the other four will teach seventh grade half-time and eighth grade half time. The larger teams will have six sections of students at a given time; the smaller will have four.
This model allows staff to be reduced by four teachers. Class size on each team will average 25-26 students, just three more than the current average, although there will be variations. This is because there are no quotas for math classes; students are placed in a class according to their individual needs.
“The ideal model for teams is the one we have right now,” noted Dr. Weitzman. However, given the need for cuts, the extended team was viewed as the best alternative. It retains the integrity of the existing structure, where a self-contained group of teachers work with a self-contained cadre of students. Teachers on the extended teams will meet regularly, as they do now, to plan interdisciplinary lessons and to prevent students from falling through the cracks. Fewer students will require reassignment than on other plans, and all students will keep their guidance counselors. Significantly, the new structure maintains the diversity of math levels on all teams, and keeps the heterogeneity of the teams.
Dr. Weitzman will be explaining the recommended plan to parents on April 15 in the Hommocks library at 10:30 am and again at 7:30 pm.
Funds From Albany & Washington?
Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein provided the board with updates from Albany and Washington. It appears that Mamaroneck will receive $645,000 more state aid than first projected (although less than last year), but may have to pay $250,000 in payroll taxes to shore up the Metropolitan Transit Authority. There may also be more than $648,000 in federal IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Act) funds available to the district for its 2009-1010 budget, although it is not yet clear how those funds can be used.
A clearer picture should emerge in the next few weeks as the state moves closer to passing its budget and more information is made public on the IDEA funds.
At the conclusion, Ms. Tse charged Dr. Fried – as he develops his revised budget – to address the larger issues voiced at three budget hearings and in more than 100 e-mails received by the board to date. These include concerns about cuts and also suggestions for additional reductions. She noted also the board’s concern with the proposed tax increase, which at 4.28% is at the high end for Westchester.